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Ditch the Purple Gorilla: Create a Dealership for Today’s Customer

Is your dealership set up to be proactive and make the most of that 21 percent of customers’ time? Or are you stuck in old processes built for old customer shopping patterns?

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It is an all too familiar sight: a huddle of salespeople standing around the purple gorilla in their sales lot, chitchatting and waiting for customers to wander in.

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Not too long ago, this dealership setup was effective. Customers shopped by walking into showrooms and browsing the vehicle selection. This is simply not the case today. Many dealers fail to realize that by the time the modern customer arrives on a dealership’s lot, they’re already deep into the car-buying process.

According to Cox Automotive’s 2017 Car Buyer Journey Study, customers spend an average of 60 percent of the car-buying process — nearly nine hours — online. More than half of all buyers only test drive one vehicle, and 38 percent of buyers only visited the dealership they purchased the vehicle from. The average customer only spends 21 percent of the process with the dealership where they buy their car.

Is your dealership set up to be proactive and make the most of that 21 percent of customers’ time? Or are you stuck in old processes built for old customer shopping patterns?

A Connected Experience

Because customers spend so much of the car-buying process online — often going beyond browsing to providing key information — it is critical that your dealership is set up to recognize all that work. Far too often, customers connect with a salesperson via email or submit forms online, only to find that no one has any idea who they are or what they’re looking for when they show up at the dealership.

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This failure to connect the online and brick-and-mortar shopping experiences forces salespeople to start from square one, denying them the opportunity to proactively offer solutions based on customer needs.

Most dealerships are already using CRM software, but many aren’t configured to take customers’ Website activity into account. You can fix this in ensuring your CRM integrates with your other dealership software platforms. Once your software platforms are integrated, you’ll receive a full view of each customer — complete with online and offline activity — which allows you to better anticipate customer needs and wants.   

The Right Staff

Creating a dealership for today’s customer means evaluating more than just your technology and infrastructure; it also means evaluating your staff and their behaviors.

Because customers now do so much of their own research, the role of a dealership salesperson has shifted. Customers are no longer looking for a salesperson to walk them through every single feature of a vehicle; most customers have already reviewed all of a car’s features on their own. Today’s customers are looking for consultants — someone who will honestly answer their questions and work to find the best options for their individual needs.

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With this shift in role and customer expectations comes a shift in the skill sets necessary to succeed. Take a good, hard look at your team. Reviewing CRM usage and activity can often be a great place to start as usage trends can often raise red flags to broader issues. Once you’ve identified opportunities for improvement, work toward making adjustments that enhance customer experience.

A Proactive Approach

Continuing to run your dealership “the old way” won’t cause anything to fall apart. But it will allow your more progressive and proactive competitors a chance to move in on your customers.

Today’s most successful dealers aren’t waiting around for an emergency or other urgent reason to update the way their dealership operates. The most successful dealers understand the power of proactivity. These dealers recognize that proactively making improvements can significantly impact their bottom line, despite the post-peak market conditions. So, if you don’t think you need to make these changes to your dealership just yet, keep in mind that your competitors probably are adjusting — and taking your customers in the process.   

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When you “go pro” by proactively reconfiguring your dealership to anticipate customer needs, you’re setting yourself up for success in any market conditions. So don’t stand around admiring your purple gorilla — create the dealership today’s customers want.

Chase Abbott

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